By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
September 7, 2016-The Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) is one of the world’s largest soccer leagues, and the largest league in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), with 1,600 travel teams––equally divided between boys and girls––in Suffolk, Nassau and Queens.
In 1965, Pat Ryder became President of the Long Island Soccer Football League (LISFL) and he made a concerted effort to have adult league teams assist in the development of youth soccer. Although some LISFL clubs responded, it was not until Jack Maher of the Deer Park Celtics wrote to Ryder to request the formal formation of the LIJSL that the ball really started rolling. Ryder appointed Maher the first Commissioner of the LIJSL. Eight boys teams kicked off the new league in December 1966 and played throughout that winter to complete a 14-game schedule by March 1967. This was the same winter that the very first Super Bowl was played (won by the Green Bay Packers over the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10).
Prior to the 1967-68 season, the non-profit LIJSL formalized its administration with Ron Campbell being named President. Volunteers became the lifeblood of the LIJSL and Campbell was succeeded as President by Bill Doyle, Sam Hobson, Tom Kenny, Tony Perez, Paul Bedell, Dick Frazita, Peter Collins and Addie Mattei-Iaia. Each brought the league to new heights in their own individual way before the torch was passed to the current LIJSL President, Anthony Maresco, in January 2015.
The LIJSL has been in the forefront of youth soccer for the past half-century. Children With Special Needs playing soccer in an organized league actually started in the LIJSL back in 1978 when the Huntington Boys Club (HBC) and Massapequa Soccer Club separately started programs. Craig Ludin, who has Down’s Syndrome and has been playing for HBC since he was a young boy in what is now known as our TOPSoccer Program, has received so many medals from the Special Olympics that he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1980, Rocco Amoroso started the LIJSL Sportsmanship Program to improve discipline on soccer fields. To this day, after every LIJSL regular season game, the match referee grades teams based on cooperation of players, coaches and fans, overall game conduct and player appearance. The team in each division with the most points at the end of the Spring and Fall Seasons receives the highly-regarded LIJSL Sportsmanship Award and their players proudly wear a LIJSL Sportsmanship patch on their shirt as a symbol of this achievement.
The first high school all-star competition, the Exceptional Senior Games, was started by the LIJSL in 1981. The games continue every November on Long Island although the LIJSL has passed the torch to organizing the competition to the high school associations in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
In 1983, the LIJSL Convention started and it attracts 10,000 soccer fans every March to the Huntington Hilton. The convention, high school all-star competition, sportsmanship program and TOPSoccer Program have since been copied by other leagues across the country and even outside the United States. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery!
For his 27 years volunteering as LIJSL President, Peter Collins was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 1998. Collins and Amoroso, who died this past May, also received the Life Member Award from US Soccer, the organization’s version of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
On the player development front, eight LIJSL teams have won the national championship: Girls-Under-16 Sachem Tomahawks, Girls-Under-16 and Girls-Under-18 Northport/Cow Harbor Piranha, Girls-Under-19 Massapequa Falcons, Boys-Under-16 Smithtown Arsenal, Boys-Under-17 West Babylon Panthers, Boys-Under-18 Terryville Fire and Boys-Under-19 Massapequa Arsenal.
Although only a few LIJSL players have the ability to win the national championship or play professional soccer, all have the ability to learn the values of sportsmanship, teamwork and perseverance while participating in a wonderful cardiovascular activity and making friends. Hundreds of thousands of kids have played in the LIJSL and have become good citizens by living the league slogan of “Building Character Through Soccer.“
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.